A great necessity
Egyptian media regularly reports inter-communal tensions in Egypt and across the Middle East: expressions of anger, clashes and too often people are killed.
Misunderstandings are created by false reporting (see Conduct for Stability and Mutual Understanding), but also ingrained perceptions that need to be challenged. For example, Arab outcries against Western policies and culture may at times by justified, but beyond its content its formulation is often too emotional and therefore it does not resonate with a Western audience. So too, the framing of Islamic culture and the Arab World as a whole is skewed in a negative fashion by a substantial number of opinion makers in the West, both secular and non-secular in orientation.
Feelings of inherent superiority also rally an inability to understand the other. A substantial number of Muslims believe Islam to be superior to all other religions. Some Western Christians too advocate an extreme teaching. Others, on the other hand, try and reduce the influence of religious beliefs as much as possible and approach the matter in a similar manner to religious radicals.
Polemics are widespread and are not limited by state boundaries. Moreover, polemics bolster extremist thought causing many people to fall back on their own religious or cultural community, hindering the acceptance of the other, as well as a rejection of pluralism and peaceful relations between members of different religious and cultural communities.
Communal tensions in Egypt stems from a variety of causes; socio-economic issues, culture, legal boundaries, inequality, etc. Many tensions that arise are sparked by issues unrelated to religion, however when situations escalate and religious arguments are brought into the equation they take on a sectarian nature that increases the religious divide. The parties involved usually focus on superficial partisan reporting, seeking support for their position (strongly image and culture related) and often believing that attacking and minimizing the concerns of the other helps their cause. However, polemics have never led to a sustainable solution and both within and outside of media reporting, polemics deepen existing tensions and tend to make them worse, at times even resulting in violent conflicts.
An instrument for building peace
By ‘Understanding’ we mean:
This background information is characterized by:
Tools and Strategies
Stereotypes add to frustrations and may even provoke anger in those who feel misunderstood and misjudged. The Center for Arab-West Understanding aims to stem these stereotypes.
We encourage reviews and translations of Arabic authors representing many different opinions on subjects found in the Arab and Islamic world; opinions we may sympathize with and opinions that we may not agree with. But they nevertheless help us to understand the wide range of thoughts that exist in the Arab and Islamic world. We want to allow the authors to speak for themselves through English language reviews of the articles written for the Arabic media. Without reformulating their opinion
To this, we add our own investigative and analytic journalism. We teach students to develop a critical attitude toward media and help them to analyze material. Some of our students have continued with peace education after having first obtained a thorough knowledge and understanding of the interaction between Western and Arab cultures.
The Arab-West Report collection is the only one of its kind that is primarily based on Arabic media reporting about Muslim-Christian relations and relations between the Islamic and the non-Islamic worlds. All articles in the collection have been reviewed in English (systematic reviews in Arabic are being developed).
All data collected is placed in a database that is used to promote peace building and oppose violence and conflict. Efforts are being made to make this archive more widely available by making it meet western library standards and developing its search functions.